As far as large multi-day fests go, Psycho Las Vegas is still pretty wet behind the ears having only just had their fourth annual incarnation this August but already it has begun growing into what will likely continue to be the summer juggernaut of partying and music. New this year, to the dismay of many, was the location change from the off the strip and perfectly themed haunt, The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, to the megaplex that is Mandalay Bay. Gone is the feeling of a true fest take over and in its place, a sprawling amalgamation of “psychos” and people from any town USA or abroad there simply to gamble, throw pre-wedding bashes, get drunk or maybe attend a conference (*ahem* “conference”). Once everyone got their bearings and navigated through this corporate mega casino/hotel/shopping mall, pushed back a few drinks or whatever preferred substances they were into, and found the locations of the four stages, the complaining ebbed and instead, people experienced the fest for what it is. A gigantic party with a great combination of bands playing for four days. Continue reading
Ghost Cult is once again honored to be part of Psycho Las Vegas, a goddam heavy metal casino/beach party extravaganza if there ever was one. The filth of Rock, Sludge, Doom, Trad, Hardcore, Prog, and Stoner Metal genres and the glitz of Vegas- baby, all rolled into one. Headlined by Original Misfits, Opeth, Electric Wizard, Corrosion of Conformity, Bad Religion, YOB, Lucifer, High on Fire, GsY!BE, Clutch, Carcass, Triumph of Death, Graveyard, ASG, Primitive Man, Deafheaven, Kadavar, Vio-Lence, Soft Kill, Andrew W.K., Tomb Mold, Power Trip, Full of Hell, and a ton more bands, it promises to be a rager. Sadly, Oranssi Pazuzu and Rotting Christ have dropped out. Every band is carefully curated and picked, so try to see them all if you can. If you can’t get set with the full lineup, and our “must not miss list” picks for each day! Continue reading
As we previously reported, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Cure are celebrating forty years as a band in 2019. In addition to tours and other festivities, the band has created their own one-day festival. Now we can reveal that The Cure’s “Pasadena Daydream” one-day festival will take place on August 31st and features a hand-picked selection of bands curated by Robert Smith personally. In addition to The Cure headlining, Pixies, Deftones, Mogwai, Throwing Muses, Chelsea Wolfe, The Twilight Sad, The Joy Formidable, and Emma Ruth Rundle will all appear. Tickets to the Pasadena Daydream go on sale May 17th at 12:00 p.m. PST via the festival’s website at the link below. They’re also releasing a new album, an appearance at the famed Sydney Opera house where they will perform Disintegration in full, two new films about the band, and also scheduled to headline Austin City Limits in October. Further US tour dates are expected in 2020.
Ghost Cult once again brings you “End Of Year” lists, memories, and other shenanigans from our favorite bands, partners, music industry peers, and other folks we respect across the world. Kicking things off Chris Gareth, guitarist of Upcdownc’ shares his Top 10 Albums Of 2017. Continue reading
Formed in 1999 in Dalian, China; Wang Wen are relative unknowns in the West, despite previous works being well received by those in the know and despite previous tours with the likes of Mono and Mogwai. Their brand of post-rock like instrumental music has always had experimental leanings (despite their pretenses that they aren’t an experimental band), as well as in their approach. Continue reading
The John Peel Archive is the living record library and online archive of the world’s most significant radio DJ. After successful events with Jarvis Cocker and Julian Cope they now welcome Scottish post-rock legend Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai to discuss their classic debut album Mogwai Young Team (also known as just Young Team). Further events are planned Continue reading
New Jersey Post-Rock/Post-Metal upstarts Au Revoir are streaming a new single, exclusively with Ghost Cult. Sinking comes from the bands forthcoming release Veles (Flesh And Bone Records), due out on March 4th. You can stream the track at this link or below:
Written from March to August 2015, Veles showcasesAu Revoir’s diverse, multi-faceted songwriting, and light-shade dynamic intensity. Fans of Red Sparrows, Mogwai, and Rosetta will love this band. Produced by the band, Veles was Engineered and mixed by Scot Moriarty at Backroom Studios in Rockaway NJ , assisted by Zak Hait. Additional engineering by Eric Scholz. Mastered by Dave Harris at Studio B Mastering in Charlotte NC. The band is self-releasing Veles on vinyl/digital formats, with cassette and CD formats to be handled by Flesh and Bone Records.
Pre-orders are available for Veles now at this link:
Veles track listing:
1. The Bottom
Since the 2013 release of Satellite, Spanish post-rock/proggers Exxasens have undergone some substantial development, primarily from being pretty much the one man project of one Jordi Ruiz into what could be considered a ‘true’ band (albeit still with Ruiz as the main creative and driving force). As they have expanded into a multi-faceted being, so their music seems to have grown, or at least enhanced sides to it, as Back To Earth (both Aloud) is perhaps their most layered to date.
All though the band’s basic components of serene, post-rock (well, about as basic as they ever were), the prog nuances here are much more vivid and colourful, and there’s even further exploration into newer territories, from the ambient to metal. On opening track ‘Supernova’ it builds up from humble, wistful beginnings to almost resembling less heavy side of Mastodon, accompanied by a new arrow in the band’s quiver, vocals; whilst the likes of Mogwai can be heard in the multi-layered ‘Hugeness’.
Returning to the new venture of vocals, small sung passages return on ‘Hugeness’, before the penultimate track ‘Saturn’ features them fully thoughout with Miki Abril’s delivery sounding somewhere between Scott Stapp and Brann Dailor, proving unexpectedly deep but still matching to the music. Another area Back To Earth differs in its more succinct, song writing as, with the exception of ‘Bright Side Of The Moon’, there are no long players, with most songs ranging from the four to sixth minute mark, proving more direct and immediate. That being said the 8 minute ‘Bright side…’ still proves a highlight, allowing room for the song to air and breathe.
Ultimately Back To Earth is both a continuation of the band’s beautiful and uplifting sonic landscape, but complete with a few new tricks that may appear simplistic and not ground-breaking on paper, in practice they offer the music so many new avenues and layers. This may be back to earth in some ways, but in others, this shows there are more worlds for them to explore. Back To Earth is evidence of an already great band showing just how special they can be.
Here’s a thing. I think it was the British music journalist Andrew Harrison who first coined the phrase “landfill indie”, referring to the glut of post Britpop bands that emerged at the end of the late 90s. These acts, mainly bereft of anything approaching “talent” and conspicuous in their self-regard, whiny vocals and complete lack of musical invention or excitement were responsible for the dilution of an independent music scene that was once renowned for its creativity, sense of purpose and creativity.
I’m going to coin another phrase. Consider, if you will, Post-Rock Rubble (patent pending). I refer, in this instance, to the current glut of hipster post rock bands who, in their quest for something approaching authenticity have appropriated the leitmotifs of post rock and imbued it with a level of anonymity and mediocrity that would be admirable in its effectiveness were the aural effect not so drab and boring. I think you know the sort of thing I’m talking about- delicate melodies married to crashing guitars that have journalists who really ought to know better about these sort of things, salivating at the mouth like Pavlovian dogs, using words like “transcendent”, “epic” and “life changing” to describe vocal free tunes that are, at best, pleasant enough and, at their most anodyne, akin to listening to the grass grow.
The job in hand is, therefore, to separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s with this in mind that we come to Akron, Ohio’s If These Trees Could Talk and Metal Blade Records decision to reissue their 2009 debut Above the Earth, Below The Sky and its 2012 follow up Red Forest. Metal Blade don’t have a deep seated heritage in post-rock but they are a reliable label when it comes to spotting talent and If These Trees Could Talk are one of the better post rock outfits so their timing, whilst curious, is probably ahead of new material from the US based five piece which, as students of this genre will likely attest is a bit of a “good thing”.
If These Trees Could Talk operate in a world that has become all too familiar since their debut some six years ago. As you probably know, they are all about the feeling and the textures of their music and, structurally, you can spot the influence and lineage of the likes of Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai and, at times, Cult of Luna at their most reflective. They have a discerning way of blending delicate and fragile melodies into the post-rock framework that is comforting and occasionally compelling.
Of the two re-issues, although there is a fair smattering of post rock loveliness in the debut album, (7) Red Forest(8) is the superior album, wherein the band have nothing like “difficult second album syndrome” but delivered a nuanced and confident record that succeeds pretty much wholesale, despite the limitations that the genre inevitably confers on its artists.
What sets If These Trees Could Talk apart from some of their more generic peers are two things: their almost metallic use of guitars to convey power as well as precision are probably one of the main reasons that they appeal to the A&R types at Metal Blade but for this listener, it is the deceptive simplicity of their music that compels. There is a moodiness and intensity to this music that brings you back to this band time and again; this is music to become emotional about and emotional for.
Above all, If The Trees Could Talk are not self conscious, nor self regarding- the two most obvious manifestations of their less talented peers. Sombre, thoughtful and evocative and a decent soundtrack for that bleak new year January.
Above The Earth, Below the Sky – 7.0/10
Red Forest – 8.0/10
For several years Chicago Post-Metal instrumental act Russian Circles have been constantly charming us with their long winding complex compositions. With Memorial (Sargent House), their new album, they have taken a step in a different direction, moving from long epochs to shorter numbers that swing between the two extremes of emotion blended in their sound. Ghost Cult decided to have a chat with bassist Brian Cook.
What was the process of creation for this new album like, was it different from earlier albums?
In some ways, the creative process for this record was very similar to our older records. Mike wrote a bunch of parts, he and Dave worked out some arrangements, they sent me some rough recordings, then we all jammed together and totally reworked the songs. Over the course of the last several records we learned that we like to have enough time in the studio to make changes to the songs once we hear them back, so we allotted ourselves plenty of studio time so that we could make the inevitable edits. The process was different this time around in that we all knew how malleable the material was. We knew that things would take a different shape in the studio. One could say that we were less prepared for Memorial than any of our other albums, but I think the more appropriate assessment would be that we were just way more flexible with the material we had on hand. The songs changed dramatically in the studio—more so than on past records.
It’s a very bipolar album, a difference from your normally more blended sound, why did you choose this?
It wasn’t a conscious decision. I think we naturally gravitate towards a blend of moods. And in the past, that fluctuation of tone generally occurred over the course of 10-minute long songs. A song like ‘Carpe’ or ‘Harper Lewis’ goes through a bunch of different sounds and moods over the duration of the composition. I think the fact that these new songs are a bit more compartmentalized in terms of their emotional timbre is partially due to the aforementioned creative process. In the past, we had songs like ‘Mladek’ that started off as 4-minute to-the-point rockers, but after working on them over and over in the practice space, they just started to build into these epic songs full of peaks and valleys. We were running on adrenaline, just cramming months of tumult into one song. This time around, most of the reworking and editing was done in the studio in a comparatively short span of time. So instead of turning ‘1777’ into a 12-minute epic, we focused on the central repeating musical theme of the song, which plays out over about 7 and a half minutes. The whole outro of the song turned into it’s own composition—’Cheyenne’. So while the songs flow together, we view them more as stand-alone songs now. And while ‘1777’ and ‘Cheyenne’ are very different in terms of their moods, I think the bipolar feel of the record is more a result of the way those moods are parceled out rather than any sort of radically new emotional dynamics within our work.
With the rather abrupt changes in temperament of the album, how do you think it will be received by your fans?
Well, again, I don’t think we’ve really taken a dramatic sonic leap. If people listen to our songs online through avenues like Youtube or Last.fm or Pandora where you hear songs individually instead of within the context of the album, then I suppose those people might take issue with some of the material. But I would hope that most people who listen to Russian Circles listen to entire albums. And I think if you listen to Memorial in it’s entirety, it is a completely logical step in the evolution of the band. I think it’s the same story in the live setting. We strive to make our live shows one long seamless composition, and I think that audiences that hear the new material in that context will see it as a natural progression of our sound.
The multiple faces of this album have very distinct personalities, how would you guys describe the two or maybe more faces of this album, can you tell us a little about them?
A friend of the band mentioned that the title of the record implies loss. And with loss comes the five stages of grief: anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This friend posited the theory that the different moods of the record reflected the five stages of grief. I wish that was actually the plan when we started making the album, because I think that’s a really great concept. Fuck it, let’s just pretend that’s what we were going for all along.
Will the future bring a reunion of the different facets of your sound again, or will it remain as a split?
I don’t know. I do know that we kinda phased Station out of our setlist for a while because the song was so long, and we didn’t really like playing the mellow comedown in the latter half of the song. Now we just play the first half of the song. It’s nice to have shorter compositions that we can shuffle around into a longer format. In that sense, I prefer the songs on the new album. But I’m still holding out for the day when we can write a killer twenty-minute epic like ‘Close To The Edge’ or ‘De Futura’.
You worked with Chelsea Wolfe for the last track, how did this get arranged?
We’ve all been fans of Chelsea since her Apokalypsis record. We had the opportunity to tour with her in the summer of 2012 during which we talked about doing some sort of collaboration. We sent her a rough demo of the song ‘Memorial’ and she sent her vocal track back two hours later and it was perfect. It was the most natural collaboration ever.
On you last album you also had a song with vocals, now we have ‘Memorial’. Will vocals be a recurring theme in your music now, or are they all still just experiments?
The band never set out to be instrumental, it’s just that the music never really seemed to require vocals. And it’s much easier to operate as an instrumental three-piece. ‘Praise Be Man’ was a four-track recording that’s been around since before I was in the band. I just sent it to Mike and Dave on a whim and they wound up liking it. Really, we just go with whatever sounds good, and we tend to spend so much time fixating on instrumentation that there doesn’t wind up being room for vocals anyways. Long story short, I doubt we’ll ever fully incorporate vocals into our sound, but I don’t imagine that this is the last time we’ll dabble in the vocal department. I feel like I need to make this disclaimer now: please do not send us demos of you singing along to our music. We are not looking for a singer. We’re just going to laugh uncomfortably at your audition for thirty seconds and then try to wipe it from our memory.
The instrumental music genre, post rock and post metal, seems to be in the lift. Are there any bands out there in the same sort of line as you guys that are inspirations, or just things you really enjoy, or don’t enjoy at all?
I actively avoid checking out new post-rock and post-metal stuff. I’ll listen to our friends’ bands, like Pelican or Red Sparrows. And I still listen to stuff that I’ve always liked, like Sigur Ros, Mogwai, or Godspeed. But I rarely check out other stuff that falls into the same category. I realize that maybe sounds kind of snobby, but I think part of the appeal of music is the mystery behind it. And when you play a certain kind of music, it loses a little of the mystery. I don’t like listening to a song and knowing exactly how the band wrote it. All due respect to Explosions In The Sky, but I just can’t listen to the countless knock-offs they’ve generated. It’s like, I get it, you have a delay pedal and you know how to play a minor scale on the guitar. Do something more with the formula. Be more like Adebisi Shank and do all kinds of glitchy pedal-generated trickery. Or be more like Stars Of The Lid and make these really pretty songs out of really sparse undulating patterns. Or be like Grails and binge on a bunch of super obscure genres to make these weird hallucinatory soundtracks. That stuff is cool. But please, don’t be an ISIS imitation. Don’t be a Mono rip-off.
Finally you’ll be on the road touring for this album, what is the schedule like and are there any gigs you’re especially looking forward to?
We’re on tour for most of October and November. Plans for next year are still coming together, but I imagine we’ll be pretty busy. For now, I’m just looking forward to trying out these new songs on the road.
SUSANNE A. MAATHUIS